Kent County Council has revealed some children have been offered places in London schools after the closure of a local secondary school
After the closure of a struggling secondary school in Hextable, Kent County Council (KCC) has been forced to offer children places in London schools.
The county council opposed the closure of Oasis Academy, which had been open for 40 years, but despite protestations, the Department for Education (DfE) shut the school in February due to falling pupil numbers.
Losing the academy has had a serious impact on the number of school places in the county. Egerton Avenue School is currently operating at 44 per cent of its capacity. This figure is set to reduce to 38 per cent by 2017.
As a result, KCC said it had been forced to offer places to pupils for the first time in the London boroughs of Bexley and Bromley.
In a report to the Education and Young People’s Service Cabinet Committee, officers warned this occurrence would not be a one-off. Once the students from Oasis Academy have been accommodated elsewhere, schools in Hextable, Swanley, and Dartford will reach their full capacity. The report said based on this fact it was likely the number of children offered places outside the county would increase.
Furthermore, officers said families moving into the area could not be guaranteed a local place, which will have a serious impact on KCC’s home-to-school transport budget.
The report said: “This presents some serious challenges for Kent County Council in meeting its statutory duty to offer a school place to all children requiring a place in the near future.”
Council chiefs now face the challenge of increasing secondary school places by expanding existing schools or commissioning new ones.
Oasis Academy will see no new intake of pupils in September and only pupils in Years 10 and 12 will remain in the 2015-16 academic year. The county council was against the closure, stating it was “unreasonable action” to take.
Furthermore, the demand for secondary places in the area is expected to increase due to large year groups in local primary schools. The report warned “significant investment” would be needed by either the county council or the Department for Education.
It added: “The closure of Oasis Academy Hextable has already led to a shortfall of Year 7 places in maintained schools and academies in north Sevenoaks and Dartford districts for the allocation of places for September 2015.
“For the first time, KCC has had to offer secondary school places at schools located in the London boroughs of Bexley and Bromley to Kent resident children.
“This is likely to be required increasingly as larger cohorts reach secondary age in the next couple of years.
“Most of the secondary schools in the area will be full to capacity across many year groups once the displaced Hextable pupils have been accommodated.
“This is likely to lead to problems for families with secondary age children moving into the area, who will be unlikely to be able to secure a place in a local school.
“This could have consequences for KCC’s home-to-school transport budget as such children would be entitled to assistance.”
The school was nearly closed in June 2013 after an Ofsted inspection judged it to “require improvement”. However, the county council rejected the proposal on the basis the school was needed to provide secondary school provision.
The Oasis Community Learning Trust (OCL) was appointed by the DfE to run the school from September that year. The OCL raised concerns about low pupil numbers early last year and made a formal request in December last year that its funding be withdrawn and the school closed.